The latest issue of NABA’s member publication American Butterflies is in the mail!
Featured in this issue of American Butterflies is an article discussing Tropical Milkweed and its effect on Monarchs. Despite widely distributed public opinions to the contrary, we suggest that you don’t give up on Tropical Milkweed just yet.
Read the full article at: Tropical Milkweed and the Injurious Effects of Well-Meaning People
NABA certified butterfly gardeners may purchase an outdoor, weatherproof certification sign with a Monarch image if their gardens contain at least one milkweed plant.
Did you know that most of the gardeners who have certified their butterfly gardens with NABA include milkweed in their list of plants?
In response to the overwhelming popularity of gardening for Monarchs, NABA has added a second outdoor, waterproof sign to its butterfly garden certification program! Certified butterfly gardeners who wish to display this sign should grow at least one type of milkweed in their garden.
NABA certified butterfly gardeners may purchase an outdoor, weatherproof certification sign with a Swallowtail image that is suitable for all types of butterfly gardens.
When you certify your garden with NABA, you now have the choice of purchasing a sign that reflects your passion for Monarchs, a sign that shows that you have a butterfly garden designed for all butterflies, or you could even purchase both!
For people who have already certified their gardens with NABA and wish to purchase the sign with the Monarch image, please send $25 to NABA, 4 Delaware Road, Morristown, NJ 07960. Please include your name and mailing address along with any information that you would like to share about Monarchs and milkweed in your garden.
For people who have not yet certified their gardens, please visit CERTIFICATION INFORMATION to learn about the program and access the certification application.
Tropical Milkweed in flower
There has been so much confusion among butterfly lovers about whether or not they should plant Tropical Milkweed since a scientific study and press release (http://news.uga.edu/…/monarch-butterflies-loss-of-migratio…/) came out on January 15th.
Thanks to the authors of that study for helping to clarify some of the details with their response on the Monarch Joint Venture website.
Note that Tropical Milkweed is not a villain, and neither are the people who plant it, but it is suggested that Tropical Milkweed be used as a carefully managed garden plant. In southern locations throughout the United States, Tropical Milkweed should be cut back to the ground in the fall if it is not grown in a place where frost will kill it. Doing this will help to minimize the possible spread of parasites that can infect Monarchs.
It is important to remember that Tropical Milkweed is sold widely across the US at many major garden outlets as a decorative container plant. In all likelihood, it is not a plant that will stop being used by gardeners any time soon.
The entire study about Monarchs and Tropical Milkweed can be found online.
Here is a group of high school students in Waverly, Iowa who are helping Monarch populations. They have created a nice website with information that is appropriate to share with schools.
In addition to educating through their website, they have been raising funds for various butterfly conservation organizations.
Butterfly gardens do not discriminate! All butterflies are welcome and encouraged to visit.
This spring however, one butterfly, the Monarch, needs a little extra care and encouragement. Monarch populations are low and as the spring migration progresses, we can extend a special welcome to Monarchs by making sure that the nectar plants they favor are available in our gardens.
Pollinator Partnership has four brochures listing nectar plants that are favored by Monarchs as they migrate along the East Coast. Each brochure is specific to a certain part of the eastern migration route and can serve as a guide to direct gardeners towards which nectar plants should be in bloom when Monarchs pass through. The guides remind us to also plant milkweed which is used as a nectar plant as well as for caterpillar rearing.
No time to get ready for the spring migration? The guides also list nectar plants that will be blooming during the fall migration. Plants put in the ground this spring, should be flowering nicely by fall, ready for Monarchs as they head towards Mexico.
The Pollinator Parthership guides start in the Green Zone for Florida and parts of Georgia. The Orange Zone is continues with plant suggestions for some of Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. The Blue Zone covers part of North Carolina and Virginia. And finally, the Yellow Zone covers the time from mid-May through mid-June when the Monarchs pass through part of Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts.
Not only will the nectar plants suggesting in these guides appeal to Monarchs but to many other butterflies and pollinators as well.
Monarch caterpillar on Tropical Milkweed
Planting milkweed for Monarchs is one of the important first steps in starting a butterfly garden this spring.
Once you have decided to plant milkweed, the next step is to choose which type of milkweed will be best for your site. Monarch Joint Venture has a brochure that details the milkweed species that are native to the central United States. Some of the milkweed species in the brochure can be hard to find in local nurseries but are worth searching for.
If you have not already started your own native milkweed plants from seed, the milkweed variety that you plant this year will depend on what is available at plant nurseries. While there are about 100 species of milkweed native to the United States, very few are commercially available. Swamp Milkweed is often found for sale, as is Butterfly Milkweed.
In many parts of the United States, Tropical Milkweed is the milkweed most commonly found for sale. Not native to the United States, it is an attractive plant with bright red or yellow flowers. It is easy to grow from seed and is the always the first milkweed in my garden to have Monarch caterpillars happily munching away on its leaves. If started from seed in spring, it could be late summer before flowers arrive but in the meantime it will be a source of tender milkweed leaves that are very attractive to egg laying Monarchs. Many years, my stand of tropical milkweed has very few flowers because the plants are eaten down to the stalk by hungry Monarch caterpillars.
Many butterfly gardeners feel that Tropical Milkweed is a problematic milkweed due to the Monarch parasite Ophryocystis elektroscirrha (OE). The parasite is transferred as a spore, moving from milkweed to milkweed attached to the adult Monarch’s abdomen. The buildup of this parasite in Monarchs can limit their life span over time. In parts of the southern United States where Tropical Milkweed is grown as a perennial, to avoid a buildup of OE spores it is suggested that Tropical Milkweed be grown as an annual (by removing plants each year), cut back to the ground once or twice a year, or not grown at all.
Find more about milkweeds on nababutterfly.com’s Monarchs and Milkweed page.
Max Munoz, Grounds Manager at National Butterfly Center, presents plant of the month for March. Each month a differant butterfly garden plant native to the Lower Rio Grande Valley, Texas is highlighted. March’s plant is milkweed and like Max says “plant it and they will come.”
Monarch on purple coneflower
Originally published in American Butterflies, “A Little Help from Some Friends: The Monarch Joint Venture” was written in 2010 when Monarch Joint Venture was fairly new. With the long term health of the Monarch migration uncertain, MJV and its work involving Monarch conservation is more important than ever.
Monarch egg on milkweed
There has never been a more important time to help Monarch populations! By planting milkweed, you can improve the chances that Monarchs will find their catperpillar food plant during the upcoming migration. A few of the most common milkweeds are highlighted on NABA’s Monarchs and Milkweed pages.